Today was tough. I took the commuter rail to and from work and got shut down by two girls (one in the a.m. one in the p.m.) who both probably thought I was just hitting on them. They almost immediately just put their headphones in and tuned out. Cool, thanks. Later that night I took the Red Line and while I was waiting for the train I realized this was my last chance to have a conversation with someone today.
A man probably in his 60’s sat next to me while we were waiting for the next train to come. He was carrying a tennis racquet and a gym bag full of stuff. He didn’t seem too inviting but I decided that I had nothing to lose. “Did you have a good game of tennis?” I asked. He sharply replies, “I didn’t play tennis, I coach tennis.” I told him (half true) that I played tennis for a semester in college. I left out the fact that it was actually just a P.E. class. This perked his interest and we started talking tennis, little did I know that he was actually a tennis pro at a local gym. Tennis is something I know close to nothing about, except for the fact that it involves Maria Sharapova.
Conveniently, I was eating dinner out of my Tupperware at the time (chicken, green beans and some other good stuff) so I just kept stuffing food into my mouth and nodding as he talked so he wouldn’t notice that I had no idea what he was talking about.
Fun Fact: I learned from him that the average tennis champion is 6’3″ tall and that the current top two men’s tennis players are only 6’1″ and that’s considered small. 6’3″ as an AVERAGE! Crazy.
I then somehow switched the topic to rock climbing and hiking. I was starving for something to talk about, time was running out on my meal and my tennis knowledge-base. He reminded me a lot of some of the old-timer climbers I see up in NH, about 5’6″ and super lean with long hair tied back in a pony tail. We talked about hiking/climbing in NH, Maine, Quincy, and MetroRock. I convinced him that he should go to the rock climbing gym in Everett, MetroRock and that it is pretty beginner friendly with lessons and a handful of easy climbs. He seemed very concerned about being a newcomer to the sport at his age. I assured him that anything is possible and that it seemed like he had a good strength to weight ratio which is key for climbing.
We ended up getting off at the same stop, chatting as we walked out. I went for the stairs and he went for the escalator, awkward, but being in mid-conversation he reluctantly took the stairs. He playfully gave me crap about making an old man take the stairs and we went back and forth a bit. Outside the station we shook hands, he said “nice talking to you” and then said, “Hey anytime you want a free tennis lesson, look me up, it’s on the house” and then gave me his contact info. Very nice guy; animated, talkative, and engaging. I just feel bad that I was mostly full of it at the time.
Again I’ve realized that you really need something in common in order to talk to strangers, this one was a reach at best. If you don’t have common ground don’t bother or else things will be very awkward. You wont always have food to stuff your face with to hide your bluff.